SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks surged to a nearly three-year high Monday despite the spreading coronavirus woes, buoyed by a rally in chipmakers and vaccine hopes that fueled investor appetite for risky assets. The Korean won rose to the highest in nearly two years against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 49.16 points, or 1.97 percent, to close at 2,543.03. The reading marks the highest closing since 2,568.54 points on Feb. 1, 2018.

 Trading volume was high at about 1.2 billion shares worth some 18.8 trillion won (US$17 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 556 to 275.

The KOSPI remained bullish, largely helped by massive foreign buying.

Foreigners purchased a net 460 billion won, extending their buying streak to an eighth session, while retail investors sold a net 161 billion won. Institutions offloaded a net 276 billion won.

The rally came as South Korea’s new coronavirus cases hovered above 200 for a third consecutive day Monday, with U.S. daily cases having hit a record over the weekend.

“Steep gains in chipmakers stoked the KOSPI’s gains,” said Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young. “Eased uncertainties from the U.S. vote results and anticipation for Pfizer’s vaccine against the new coronavirus also improved investor sentiment,” he added.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics spiked 4.91 percent to 66,300 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix skyrocketed 9.25 percent to 98,000 won.

Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, advanced 0.85 percent to 179,000 won, and top steelmaker POSCO added 1.27 percent to 239,000 won.